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Friday, 10 November 2000
Page: 19677

Senator CARR (9:58 AM) —The amendment the Democrats have moved goes to the issue of the guidelines of the SES model. Senator Allison, I do not know whether you would consider moving amendments (2) and (3) together; they are, in some ways, complementary. In any event, can I advise the Senate that the Labor Party are not able to support these particular measures. The remarks that I am making go to the issues contained in both amendments (2) and (3) of the Democrats amendments. I think it has been made very clear that the Labor Party are deeply concerned about the way in which this government has implemented its arrangements in regard to its new SES model. We are very concerned about the discriminatory nature of this model. We do not believe that it is fair, we do not believe that it is transparent and we do not believe that it actually improves the chances for Australian children to do well at school. What it does do is give an advantage to those that are already very privileged.

We are particularly disappointed that this government has sought to provide additional moneys to these elite category 1 schools. We are very disappointed that the government has chosen not to increase the funding to government schools in real terms, particularly given the fact that they do educate 70 per cent of Australia's children. We are concerned that the government's measures do not adequately support needy non-government schools. We have made it perfectly clear that as far as we are concerned there ought to be greater attention paid to providing resources to needy communities wherever they are, whatever sector they are in. Our view, however, is that Geelong Grammar and King's College do not fit into the category of needy schools. This is in stark contrast with the government's position which claims that, in the interests of social justice, we have to provide a mechanism whereby millionaires get additional support from this government if they happen to live in an area that is not particularly well off. In the suburb in which I live, the City of Moreland in Melbourne, there is of course the odd millionaire. However, they live in an area which is less than affluent, one might say. Under this government's program what you see is a measurement of the neighbourhood, not necessarily the income of the families sending their children to these elite schools. However, we are sure that we cannot effectively run government from the opposition benches. As we see it, our job is to be an alternative government. Our job is to ensure—

Senator Hill —You will have to develop some policies then.

Senator Ellison —What about some policies?

Senator Hill —That is what being an alternative government is all about.

Senator CARR —If Senator Hill wishes to intervene at this stage, I am obviously always prepared to take up these challenges. I am sure over the next little period it will become clearer to you what the Labor Party's position is. I am troubled that I obviously have not made myself clear so I may need to repeat myself on a few occasions to get through to Senator Hill that we do have clear views about these matters. Our concern is to ensure that we do not, however, try to fix the overall SES model from opposition when we do not have the resources to undertake that review in a proper way. We are concerned, nonetheless, to make the bill fairer. We think our amendments do that but, from a position of opposition, we do not wish to go to a review of the guidelines and a moratorium on the funding of schools in the way the Democrats have suggested. Our concern is not to disrupt funding to an overwhelming number of Australia's 10,000 schools. Our concerns go to those 61 elite schools at this juncture.